I don’t know what I’m doing. Maybe I shouldn’t admit that, and I’m honestly not looking for sympathy, but it’s the truth. I didn’t set out to write an autobiography, and I hope that’s not what this is becoming. I haven’t lived long enough or deep enough to make that worthwhile, but I suppose most of us haven’t.
What type of ego is it that makes us believe we’ve seen a grain of truth that others might have missed? That we personally have some insight that is worth sharing with the world? I suppose any time an author picks up a pen he’s channeling some of that, and maybe it’s not ego after all. In fact, we’ve all been told over and over again that it might be our job to shine. It might be our obligation to shout every revelation we have out to the stars and see what comes back to us.
For a long time I was something of an individualist. Not in the Randian sense of the word, but I read the existentialists and I was obsessed with human potential. What could I do, all by myself? It was each of us against the world, struggling to be a voice in a vast and lonely darkness.
Somewhere in time, however I read other things. I sat in meditation, and I began to wonder if in the middle of that ego driven world was a myth that was had to overcome. What if each of us was not in fact separate? What if I returned to at least the basics of my early liberal theology and remembered that if god is anything, she is love? I devoured Tich Nan Han, Annie Dillard, and Alan Watts, and it all became clearer and less clear at once. We do not come into the world, Watts says. We come out of it. We are not people in an expansive universe, we are the universe, exploring itself through touch, taste and sound by being human. Just as my chair and my desk are made up of atoms, the only thing separating them being space and time, so am I a part of everything. You and I are simply separate tendrils of existence, all connected to one beautifully complex thing whose only desire is to see more. To learn more. To be more.
And maybe that’s why we like stories. My story is in fact all of our stories. Of course our lives our different, our experiences too, but it takes the totality of human existence to tell it correctly. It’s not a very practical philosophy, but I’ve never been the most practical man in the world. Realizing that you and I are the same doesn’t make it easier when we fight and it doesn’t make the stranger on the train platform any more terrifying on a dark night. But there are occasions when it makes all the difference; when I can pause just long enough to realize I am fighting with myself. I am afraid of myself. I, that is to say all of creation, am constantly looking inward and pretending it’s something other.
So if I ask myself again, what am I doing here writing these words down, maybe the answer is simpler than I expected. Maybe if I wonder about connection and struggle, if I question my ability to communicate and thus escape my loneliness, it’s much clearer. I’m writing this for the same reason I wrote letters in college. I’m writing for the same reason I got drunk and walked the street naked with old friends, and the same reason I kissed a girl in the rain and mud.
I do love you, you see. We are separate parts of the whole, cut off by our thoughts and our experience as a sensing creature, but we are one. And for all of my life I have been desperately trying to feel the truth of that in my bones and my blood. I’ve been struggling to look through the myth of our being separate, and experience instead the reality of our connection.
But of course, loving you maybe easier than loving myself…
(note: this is from a longer piece I’ve been working on for a while. It’s not my typical QNY fodder, but I wanted to share it anyway. Hope you don’t mind.)